Thursday, February 10, 2011

Civil rights activists, not who you think

Last week Dallin Oaks, one of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (and therefore a "prophet, seer and revelator") at the head of the Mormon Church, gave a speech at Chapman University (a Christian college in Orange County with a law school) which dwelt on a common theme among those who would govern from faith:  the freedom of others is impinging on my freedom of religion.  Oaks was, tellingly, a judge on the Utah State Supreme Court (1980 to 1984) and the audience of 800 law students and others, also tellingly, applauded.  In the talk, Oaks called the workers supporting California's Proposition Eight, which ended same-sex marriages, the new civil rights workers.
In his speech and in an interview, Oaks said he didn't want to dwell on same-sex marriage. But the examples he cited of intrusions on religious liberty were almost all related to that debate.

But these arguments reveal more about the arguer than about the subject at hand.  Religious freedom is only under attack if you consider controlling society to be part of your religion.  As one writer from a Mormon background wrote about Oaks' presentation

... What are the evidences that religious freedom is under legal attack in the United States? He cited a few cases (some of the same ones used in scare-tactic ads from the now-discredited National Organization for Marriage) but none of them pertains to the rights of churches or private individuals (acting as private individuals) to create and maintain their own religious beliefs and practices.
... In his address, Oaks clarified that the major threat to religious freedom was actually “moral relativism.” But where some see the decadence of “moral relativism,” I see the advancement of religious pluralism and the erosion of a conservative religious prerogative to define public life.
Unfortunately, for some Californians these debates are not merely academic and have had real-world deleterious effects.  Time will tell if Humanists can keep these losses from mounting.